Portable Internet Guide

These portable internet solutions keep you connected away from home.

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portable satellite internet

Are you packing for a cross-country trip in your RV? Or embracing the tidal pull and heading out to sea? No matter how you travel, you don’t have to give up every connection to the outside world just to relax—internet included.

But not all portable internet options are made equal. So which one should you pack for the next time you hit the road?

The best ways to get portable internet

Best mobile internet for boating and RVing

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Verizon Get More Unlimited Cell Phone Plan + Mobile Hotspot
• Price: $$ (monthly)
• Data: 30 GB of 5G or 4G LTE, then unlimited 600 Kbps
• Download: 20 Mbps
• Upload: 3 Mbps
View Plan

Do you own a cell phone? You’re one step ahead when it comes to surfing the web on the road. Depending on your plan, you can turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot through a process called “tethering.”

Every provider has a different process, but most—including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile—allow your phone to become your main internet connection to the outside world. You can connect laptops, gaming devices, and tablets to the internet using your phone plan or a mobile hotspot device.

For RV and boat travel in the US, we highly recommend Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan combined with a mobile hotspot device. This gets you 30 GB of 5G or 4G LTE data—and then unlimited data after 30 GB at 600 Kbps.

But the main reason we recommend Verizon is it has the best nationwide coverage according to two different third-party tests, OpenSignal and RootMetrics. That means you’ll get better coverage all across the country, whether you’re enjoying beaches in Florida or you’re visiting family in Texas. There are still areas without any cell phone service, often within heavily forested or mountainous areas. But getting data through mobile plans is faster and more reliable than most other types of data.

Prefer to travel in international waters? You can still use your cellphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Here’s how:

  • Make sure your cell phone is unlocked.
  • Most cell phones should work internationally on the GSM network—both AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. So, an unlocked phone from either one should be compatible while you travel.
  • Once you arrive in your destination country, buy a prepaid SIM card with data and pop it in.

Don’t want to hassle with SIM cards?

Google Fi may be a better option since it auto-detects the best wireless network available near you. Or you can grab a mobile hotspot device like this one from GlocalMe on Amazon, which automatically swaps to international networks it has agreements with—no SIM card required.

You can also buy a burner phone once you arrive at your destination or on Amazon if that seems easier. Or swap to an international phone plan from your US-based wireless provider. As far as plans go, we think T-Mobile ONE and ONE Plus offer the best perks for globetrotters.

Of course, those dreaded dead spots are always a possibility. To keep your signal from waving goodbye, get a signal booster. Signal boosters extend your coverage by boosting your existing cellphone signal, which means you’ll get a better hotspot.

Learn how to turn your cell phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Check the following guides for details on how to tether your phone:

Best portable connection for extreme and rugged environments

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Hughes 9450-C10 BGAN Mobile Satellite Terminal
• Price: $$$$
• Supports: Internet, phone, fax, SMS text
• Download: 464 Kbps
• Upload: 448 Kbps
• 802.11b Wi-Fi access point
• In-motion antenna
Buy on Ground Control

If you’re a serious traveler who’s on the road 365 days a year in extremely remote and rugged areas, investing in a satellite terminal like the Hughes 9450-C10 is worth it.

The 9450-C10 delivers a decked-out mobile office while you’re on the road. It’s not only a Wi-Fi hotspot, but it’s also a connection to phone, fax, and SMS text service. Bonus: It comes with an onboard router that delivers download speeds up to 464 Kbps through Wi-Fi or a wired connection.

Sure, 464 Kbps pales in comparison to the gig speeds you could get from cable and fiber internet if you rented an apartment in the city. Streaming videos or gaming is probably out of the question, but these speeds should be fine for checking email, messaging family on Facebook, and googling stuff in your RV.

This terminal works by connecting you to the Broad Global Area Network (BGAN) network, which is made up of four satellites owned by Inmarsat. Instead of paying for your internet service online or getting a paper bill like you would with cable or DSL, you’ll need a BGAN SIM card to connect. You can find these SIM cards online, and the cost depends on how many megabytes of data you need.

BGAN cards for mobile satellite internet

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CardData unitsValid forLearn more
BlueCosmo500180 daysView on Amazon

You might think these features will make setup a beastly task, but all you need to do is turn the 9450-C10 on to create your Wi-Fi hotspot. Voilà! Now that’s something even we can handle after a long, tiresome day of traveling.

We also like that the 9450-C10 is an in-motion satellite antenna. That means it automatically finds and tracks satellite signals so you can enjoy an internet connection even while you’re on the move. (Just don’t web surf and drive!)

Do you call the countryside home when you’re not traveling? Stay connected with satellite internet for your house.

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Best portable internet for international travel

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Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot
• Price: $$
• Download: 20 Mbps (varies by country)
• Upload: 3 Mbps (varies by country)
• Countries: 130+
• How to get it: Purchase or rental
View on Amazon

Have you ever paid exorbitant international rates for a phone call or email while traveling? The Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot makes traveling easy. It’s a portable hotspot you can take with you almost anywhere and access international data. 

You can rent the Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot for $9 per day (USD), which includes unlimited data. It works seamlessly in over 130 countries.

You can pay by the day, by the month, or by the GB. Skyroam offers rental of the hotspot with data for $9 per day, with convenient delivery and drop off by mail. If you’ll be traveling a lot, you can buy a Skyroam Solis hotspot for $179.99 and get a data plan separately. 

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Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot data and rental plans

PlanSkyroam Global Day Pass
Skyroam Global Unlimited Subscription
Skyroam Data by the Gig
Price$9 per day$99 per month$9 per GB
DataUnlimited20 GB1 GB
Get itView planView planView plan

Best mobile satellite internet for extreme camping

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IsatHub Portable Satellite Wi-Fi Hotspot
• Price: $$$
• Supports: Internet, phone, SMS text
• Download: 380 Kbps
• Upload: 240 Kbps
• Hotspot range: 100 ft.
• Battery: Up to 2 hrs. in use; up to 24 hrs. standby
View on Amazon

Still craving an internet connection while curled up under the stars? We’ve been there. And while a mobile hotspot from your phone won’t cut it when the trees outnumber the cell towers, a satellite internet hotspot can still get you on Facebook.

The great outdoors actually help this satellite Wi-Fi hotspot out since it needs a clear view of the sky to establish a signal. It also weighs only 1.9 pounds, so it won’t keep you from putting one foot in front of the other on your way to the next campsite.

Similar to the Hughes Satellite Terminal above, the IsatHub hotspot doesn’t keep pace with urban internet speeds. But that’s to be expected.

At 380 Kbps, your download speed is closer to the speed of 1990s dial-up than it is to the speed of the slowest cable internet plans available today. But, hey, you’re a rugged adventurer, and we know the sights, fresh air, and peaceful atmosphere are well worth not being able to stream Community.

Another thing to keep in mind about this mobile satellite hotspot: if you’re surfing the web, making calls, or sending texts, it has a battery life of only two hours—that battery life goes up to 24 hours if you leave it on standby.

Need something less expensive?

Learn how to turn your cell phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot with our guide.

Best satellite phone for the backcountry

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Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone
• Price: $$$
• Supports: Phone, short emails, SMS text
• Download: Up to 9.6 Kbps
• Battery: Up to 3 hrs. talk time, up to 30 hrs. standby time
View on Amazon

A satellite phone is your best bet if you’re working in rugged terrain where other signals (like mobile phone) are unavailable. Tuck one next to your bedroll, and you can maintain connections to the outside world without weighing down your pack.

Of course, with download speeds that max out at 9.6 Kbps, you won’t be doing much web surfing on your sat phone.

But that’s ok, and you won’t be (too) disappointed if you expect to only make quick calls and send texts or short emails. And the SOS functionality adds peace of mind when the nearest town is hundreds of miles away. After all, a sat phone is meant to let others know you’re safe and sound while you venture off the beaten path, not update your status on Instagram.

Speaking of “off the beaten path,” Iridium’s sat phones work even in the North or South Pole—but more likely you’ll want something with a reliable connection between the north and south 70th parallels. Yup, the Iridium sat phone still works there too.

Though not as rugged as the Iridium 9575, the 9555 is still resilient enough to summit the Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala and still text your mom to let her know you made it.

FAQ

Can I use satellite internet in any country?

You can’t use satellite internet anywhere in the world yet—but companies like Starlink and Project Kuiper will be launching international coverage within the next few years. Check out the latest information on these providers on our Starlink page.

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